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2012 Gator Bowl Preview

Ohio State Buckeyes vs Florida Gators

The 2012 Gator Bowl is a very strange sort of affair. It’s an event in which victory will seem to offer minimal rewards to the winner, and it’s also a clash in which defeat doesn’t seem ready to convey a sharp and biting pain to the loser. Just why is this bowl game different? The details tell the tale.

First, just how much is there for the Ohio State Buckeyes to either gain in triumph or lose if they fall short against the Florida Gators in Jacksonville, Florida? The Buckeyes suffered through a miserable 2011 campaign under interim coach Luke Fickell after Jim Tressel, the program’s enormously successful leader, was forced to resign in the midst of multiple scandals. Tressel presided over a wayward football operation in which several players acquired tattoos and sold memorabilia for money, but Mister Sweater Vest’s true black mark this past year emerged when it was revealed that he lied to NCAA investigators concerning communications he had with people in and around the Ohio State program. Tressel’s lies made an already-bad situation far worse, and with Ohio State’s compliance department falling further behind the curve as the weeks and months passed, Tressel arrived at the point of no return. He reluctantly stepped away from his seat of prominence in Columbus despite winning the 2002 national championship, making two other BCS title games (in the 2006 and 2007 seasons), and winning four Big Ten titles (2002, 2006, 2007, and 2009).

However, for all the disillusionment and depression that descended upon Columbus this past fall, the season ended on a supremely high note. Right after the Buckeyes’ season finale against Michigan, Urban Meyer – the former architect of Utah’s rise to BCS prominence and the mastermind behind Florida’s two recent national championships – agreed to become OSU’s new head coach. The Buckeyes lost a great coach in Tressel, but they gained an even more accomplished one in Meyer, who led Florida to national titles in 2006 and 2008. The Buckeyes’ performance in this Gator Bowl battle won’t have a negative impact on their recruiting. Meyer is not going to take a close hands-on approach to this game, instead focusing on assembling his staff and setting up his larger plan of operations. Ohio State could lose this game by 20 points and still enter the 2012 season with sky-high expectations.

For Florida, the hopefulness found at Ohio State is not in existence, but at this point in time, the Gator Bowl is also seen as a less-than-important occasion. Florida was hurt more than anything else by injuries in 2011, chiefly the leg injury suffered by quarterback John Brantley. Florida did not have a seasoned backup ready to take Brantley’s place, so when the upperclassman was felled in an Oct. 1 game against Alabama, first-year coach Will Muschamp didn’t have a good plan B. The Gators tumbled to a 6-6 marked and looked awful on offense, but it’s all because they were shorthanded. The college football community won’t know how good (or bad) Florida is until the Gators can make it through a season in good health. For now, this game against Ohio State simply won’t cure all ills in the case of victory or cause a widespread sense of doom in the event of a defeat.

This bowl game is what many bowls turn out to be – a glorified exhibition. We’ll see if any news value emerges from the 60 minutes in which the Buckeyes and Gators go at it on the field.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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